by Hans Christian Andersen
Discussion and Activities
For pre-reading ideas and background information on folktales and their conventions, see Around the World in 80 Books: A Multicultural Guide.
Originally set in China, this version of the classic tale is set in Morocco, an Islamic country in Northwest Africa with roots in the Arabic culture of Mecca and Medina, and the Berber culture of the High Atlas Mountains and the Sahara Desert. As Islam forbids the representation of people and animals in art, there is a widespread use of pattern and abstraction in fabrics, carpets, and architecture to focus the mind of the viewer on higher truths. Have children study how and where such patterns have been incorporated into Jerry Pinkney's elaborate illustrations. Call their attention to the zellij mosaics, colorful tiles with complex geometric patterns, adorning fountains, walls and furniture. Children may then create their own Moroccan tiles, gluing small bits of colored paper in repetitive geometric patterns on a square piece of paper to achieve a mosaic effect.
Both The Firebird and The Nightingale, expressed musically by Russian composer Igor Stravinsky, were used as the basis for ballets by leading Russian choreographer, Serge Diaghilev. Have children view all or part of these ballets on video. Identify instruments and dance movements that come together during these performances to express emotion and create mood. Students may choreograph their own movements to tell these stories through dance or write a "mood" essay, describing what feelings each suite evoked in them and why.